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Friday, July 20, 2012

Days Of Darren: He Resurfaces With Jaw Dropper; Former Sheriff Will Run ABQ Racino, Plus: More Of Our Rio Rancho Tea Party Coverage, And: Rogers Resigns FOG Board Amid Emailgate Scandal 


Darren White
It's another of those only in New Mexico moments. A former sheriff with not a day of racing or gaming experience gets named as the general manager of the Downs at ABQ. That eyebrow raiser had the chins dropping to the floor all over our enchanted land this week, as Darren White, former Bernalillo County sheriff, former ABQ public safety director and unsuccessful 2008 GOP congressional candidate assumed the helm at the controversial ABQ racino.

White has one qualification that is undisputed--his political connections to the Martinez administration and its chief political adviser--Jay McCleskey--are superb.

Darren gave us plenty of blog copy when he was bounced from City Hall last July as public safety director for intervening in an auto accident involving his wife. He also popped up in the blog news this month when he put a message on Twitter that was negative towards ABQ GOP congressional candidate Janice Arnold-Jones. And with Darren as Downs general manager, you can expect the hits to keep coming

The watchdogs immediately charged that the White appointment was evidence that the lease for the racino at the Downs--recently approved by the state--was a wire job from start to finish, and now we are seeing the payoff. Earlier, tapped in lobbyist/lawyer Pat Rogers surfaced as the attorney for the Downs as it negotiated its decades-long lease that is going to be worth major league dollars. Big Bill could not have done it any better. And we're probably not finished. Darren at the Downs could mean a full-scale employment agency--for the politically connected.

The state gaming commission controlled by the Martinez administration did not even do a double-take over the unusual appointment.

The Downs deal is under the scrutiny of the attorney general and state auditor. The probes of exactly what happened in awarding that lease will be bounced around for months to come. Hey, maybe Darren's law enforcement experience is actually what the Downs needed after all.

HEINRICH VS.WILSON

It's pretty tight, but according to Roll Call Heather Wilson's campaign says her own polling shows her lagging Dem Martin Heinrich by three points. 

Wilson's camp is working the national press hard to keep this race on the radar and the cash coming in. Her 49% unfavorable rating in this week's PPP poll has some R's worried that the well-known Wilson has hit the wall. One other interesting note--Heinrich says there is a down side if Obama stays way ahead here--his campaign will have to put up the field operations that the presidential campaign would do in a tight contest.

RIO RANCHO TEA

Our insiders and Alligators report the four new  Rio Rancho city councilors are decidedly pro-Tea Party, but there is a dissenting view. It comes from a reader in the City of Vision who prefers to remain anonymous:

As far as I know, Councilor Crumb is not a Tea Party member...And, I know for certain that Mark Scott is not a Tea Party member. He was endorsed by the Tea Party because they watched him attend all the City Council meetings and speak at public forums there. They liked what they saw and heard. But, he is not a Tea Party member...In fact, councilor Scott even commented at a meeting on Wednesday that he was not a Tea Party member. He's been to several of their meetings by invitation. He's gone to Republican meetings by invitation. The Democratic Party never invited him to any meetings.

I am weary of this finger pointing at the Tea Party as though they are the root of all evil...I've learned that the members of the Rio Rancho Tea Party are a very diverse group comprised of Independents, Liberals, Libertarians and Conservatives. It's become obvious to me that people who talk about the RR Tea Party have not done their homework to find out who they are. Instead, it becomes an easy way to label and blame for whatever is convenient at the time...


 I highly doubt that the vast majority of those that voted are engaged at any level with the RR Tea Party. There is no science behind all these claims that everyone is making about the influence of the Tea Party. It is all speculation and perception based. If you're going to make those claims and publish it, at least do the metrics! 

Thanks for that anonymous reader, but there is a lot of parsing going on in your missive. The Alligators are saying the Council is controlled by politicians sympathetic to the platform of the Tea Party--not that they are formal members of the "Tea Party." I've talked personally with one of the new councilors and can say that the Gators are indeed correct. A strong ant-tax, anti-spending message has taken hold with the new Rio Rancho City Council--in line with the beliefs of the Tea Party.

The fact that you mention one of the new councilors has had the endorsement of the Tea Party says it all. So you see, it is not all "speculation and perception." It is an actual change in the philosophical direction of the government of the state's third largest city. You might not hear about it elsewhere, but you will here.

ROGERS RESIGNS

Friday night lawyer/lobbyist and GOP national committeeman Pat Rogers, under increasing pressure to resign from the executive board of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government, did just that. Here is a portion of Rogers' resignation letter to the board:

...My prompt resignation will allow NMFOG and all of the NMFOG volunteers to concentrate on your critical First Amendment and open government mission and avoid further distractions by an issue that has become improperly politicized.

While even the most virulent partisans calling for my NMFOG resignation admit (as they must) that my actions were always lawful, it is also a fact I sent e-mails to individuals in government using an address that was not a state-issued address.  Use of personal e-mail addresses is a universal practice. My attempted use, however, as highlighted by the publication of certain portions of the stolen emails (emails that  were never received by the intended recipients) has become a significant distraction for this organization.  Moving forward, perhaps NMFOG can recommend changes to update the state law on this issue and develop an approach that is consistently applied to all government and to all persons interacting with government.

Improperly politicized? What is being investigated and questioned are back channel communications via private email accounts to top government officials by a private attorney/lobbyist. That's a matter of how public policy is executed--not the improper application of politics.

Rogers submitted his resignation to FOG executive board president Terri Cole, who also heads up the ABQ Chamber of Commerce.

The Santa Fe Reporter, KOB-TV and New Mexico Politics with Joe Monahan this past week published or aired the latest email communications between Rogers and top Martinez administration officials. They were released recently by the Independent Source PAC--a union funded watchdog group. See our Thursday blog below for more on that.

Now here's the story we posted Friday, prior to the Rogers resignation:

Joe Monahan
The future role of lawyer/lobbyist Pat Rogers on the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government (FOG) Board of Directors will be examined by the board in light of Rogers' role in emailgate. From Gwyneth Doland executive director of FOG:

You were unfair to FOG. If you'd asked me I would have told you...the executive committee has discussed this issue and asked Pat for a meeting. Meanwhile, he's recused himself from board communications.

We did not intend to be unfair. The article we linked to that quoted Doland--who does not have the power to remove Rogers--did not mention the proposed meeting with the lobbyist. It was contained in another article written by the newspaper. We assumed (mistakenly) that the set of quotes from Doland in the first piece where she pointed out Rogers' experience with open government issues were the sum of what she had to say on the matter. That's why we did not seek addditional comment from Doland. But let's get to the meat and potatoes, kids...

FOG says it's been trying to set up a meeting with Rogers who ran from the KOB-TV news cameras when asked about emailgate (that video aired on the 10 p.m. news this week but has not been posted on the station's web site) and accused the Santa Fe Reporter of unsound journalistic practices. We know he doesn't speak for the board, but attacking and hiding from journalists who are trying to defog emailgate is abrerrant behavior for a FOG board member who is supposed to be there to advocate for open government. But Pat is now in the business of protecting the government that FOG is charged with watchdogging. Isn't it time for FOG to stop playing footsie, protect the credibility of their organization and advance the cause of transparency by showing Pat the door?

We're just asking...

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Thanks for stopping by this week. Reporting to you from Albuquerque, I'm Joe Monahan.

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